Also trending on your TGIF: Overstock CEO quits after claim he was involved in FBI probe of Russian and Hillary Clinton, New Zealand parliament speaker soothes baby as debate rages, William and Kate take budget flight after Harry and Meghan slammed over private jets.
Overstock CEO quits after claim he was involved in FBI probe of Russian, Hillary Clinton
Overstock.com’s stock surged 5% on Thursday after Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne resigned following his claim of being involved in a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into Russia and former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
His resignation follows a drop of over 30% in the online retailer’s shares over two days earlier this month, with investors rattled after Byrne claimed in a statement that he had secretly been involved with the FBI, starting in 2015.
The stock briefly surged 15% after the announcement of Byrne’s resignation.
“While I believe that I did what was necessary for the good of the country, for the good of the firm, I am in the sad position of having to sever ties with Overstock, both as CEO and board member,” Byrne said in a resignation letter addressed to shareholders on Thursday.
“It has been an honor to serve you through thick and thin, threats grand and arcane, for the past 20 years.”
A libertarian with a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford University, Byrne for over a decade has publicly battled short sellers targeting his company as it competes against larger rivals, including Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc. He is known for making brash and freewheeling comments.
On Thursday, he lauded the remaining Overstock executive team with pop culture references, calling the chief marketing officer “Commander Data,” after a Star Trek character. He said another executive called an artificial intelligence system “Skynet,” after the Terminator movie series.
In a separate statement, Overstock said it appointed company veteran Jonathan Johnson as interim CEO.
Byrne is also a vocal proponent of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.
May, he lashed out at investors who questioned the motivation behind his sale of about 15% of his Overstock shares, saying he had to supplement his $100,000 a year salary and vowing never to "give such an explanation again."
The stock has fallen more than 70% from record highs in January 2018, when Overstock was benefiting from Byrne’s plan to launch a digital token, and from hype around Bitcoin.
“On any normal day, my presence is not conducive to strategic discussions regarding our retail business. I believe that going forward my presence will definitely not be conducive to such strategic discussions,” Byrne wrote in his resignation letter.
Bear bandit caught stealing dog food delivery
THORNHURST TOWNSHIP, PA (WNEP) -- A family in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania was expecting a delivery of dog food from the online pet store Chewy, but a hungry bear had other plans.
Video from the Newman family’s security camera caught the thief in the act.
The bear can be seen grabbing the box and dragging it off the porch and into the woods.
The family, who live in Thornhurst, tell us they sent the video to Chewy, and the company offered to send a replacement bag of food free of charge so they can finally get their delivery.
Unless the bear is still hungry.
FBI takes down Nigerian romance scam fraudsters in $46M case
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The relationship between a Japanese woman and a U.S. Army captain stationed in Syria started online, through an international social network for digital pen pals. It grew into an internet romance over 10 months of daily emails.
It ended with the woman $200,000 poorer and on the verge of bankruptcy after borrowing money from her sister, ex-husband and friends to help Capt. Terry Garcia with his plan to smuggle diamonds out of Syria.
In reality, there were no diamonds and there was no Garcia — they were part of an elaborate scam hatched by an international ring of cyber thieves operating mainly out of Los Angeles and Nigeria.
Federal authorities cited the case of the Japanese woman, known only as "F.K." in court papers, on Thursday when they announced an indictment charging 80 people with stealing at least $46 million through various schemes that targeted businesses, the elderly and anyone susceptible to a romance scam. Most of the defendants are Nigerians.
"We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history," U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told a news conference. "We are taking a major step to disrupt these criminal networks."
The investigation began in 2016 with a single bank account and one victim, said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles office. It grew to encompass victims who were targeted in the U.S. and around the world, some of whom like the Japanese woman lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"F.K. was and is extremely depressed and angry about these losses," the federal complaint states. "She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her."
Her relationship began innocently in March 2016 with an email but soon "Garcia" made "romantic overtures," according to federal authorities. He told her they couldn't talk by phone because he wasn't allowed to use one in Syria.
So a stream of emails went back and worth, with her using Google to translate his English into her Japanese. A month into the relationship, Garcia told her he'd found a bag of diamonds in Syria and he began introducing her to his associates, starting with a Red Cross representative who told her Garcia had been injured but had given him the box.
F.K. ultimately made 35 to 40 payments, receiving as many as 10 to 15 emails a day directing her to send money to accounts in the U.S., Turkey and the United Kingdom through the captain's many purported associates.
The fraudsters even threatened her with arrest if she did not continue to pay and at one point she traveled to Los Angeles because she was told a Russian bank manager had embezzled more than $33,000 of her funds.
Authorities arrested 14 defendants Thursday, mostly in the Los Angeles area. FBI agents could be seen processing suspects in a downtown Los Angeles parking lot before they were arraigned in federal court. It was not immediately known if they had attorneys who could speak on their behalf.
They all face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft, and some are charged with additional offenses for alleged fraud and money laundering.
Awh! New Zealand parliament speaker soothes baby as debate rages
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The man who presides over New Zealand's parliament has been called a baby whisperer.
He was in action again this week, gently rocking, bottle feeding and burping a colleague's infant as a lawmaker ranted about gas prices.
Speaker Trevor Mallard held baby Tutanekai for about 15 minutes during a fiery general debate Wednesday after spotting lawmaker Tamati Coffey with his 6-week-old son.
Mallard said Friday he's been trying to make parliament a more family-friendly place by adding baby chairs, family rooms and, soon, a slide. He's also increased the flexibility around family leave for lawmakers.
Mallard, who has six grandchildren, said he's worked hard to help out his colleagues. And he's been in plenty of demand: There are currently seven lawmakers with babies and he figures there have been a dozen since he began his role nearly two years ago.
"I enjoy cuddling them and seem to have some ability to settle them," he said.
Coffey said he'd just gotten back to work after he and husband Tim Smith had their baby via a surrogate mother last month. He said he doesn't usually plan to bring his son to parliament but thought it would be good to let his colleagues meet and cuddle the boy and get some selfies with him.
He said he's been getting plenty of messages after the images of Mallard spread far and wide.
"People talk about things going viral, but I've never experienced it before," he said. "It's also highlighted a case in Kenya."
In that case from earlier this month, Zuleikha Hassan and her 5-month-old baby were ejected from the floor of the Kenyan National Assembly. Hassan said she had to bring the baby to parliament because she wasn't able to make other arrangements, but temporary speaker Christopher Omulele said "As much as she might want to take care of her child, this is not the place for it."
That's not how Mallard sees it, even if the role does get a little messy sometimes.
He said that when he was burping Tutanekai, a little milk came up, which later required him to clean his official robes.
France's Macron, soccer stars unite against Amazon fires
PARIS (AP) — Rarely have French President Emmanuel Macron and superstar soccer players including Cristiano Ronaldo been on the same page, but when it comes to the fires that are devastating the Amazon, they're uniting in sounding the alarm.
Five-time world player of the year Ronaldo beat Macron to the punch with his tweet urging action on the Amazon that, by Friday morning, had already racked up more than a quarter-million likes.
Ronaldo tweeted: "The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20% of the world's oxygen and it's been burning for the past 3 weeks. It's our responsibility to help to save our planet."
Macron's tweet later was similarly urgent, saying "Our house is burning. Literally." Macron put the Amazon fires on the agenda for the G-7 summit of world leaders that France is hosting this weekend.
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019
Other soccer stars chimed in, too — unusual in the sport whose professionals are often reluctant to express views about off-pitch issues.
Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, a World Cup winner with France, tweeted a composite photo of rainforest in the shape of human lungs , lush and green on one side, consumed by flames on the other, and the words: "Pray for Amazonia."
And from the world of tennis came a straight-to-the point tweet from top-ranked Novak Djokovic. "Heartbreaking," the winner of 16 majors wrote above a photo of forests aflame.
But beyond sports stars lamenting the Amazon's pain to their global audiences, it wasn't obvious what, if anything, Europe could immediately do about the situation.
Brazil was unlikely to ask for fire-fighting assistance, given how conservative Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has bristled over Macron's intervention.
The Brazilian leader accused Macron of sensationalism and of seeking "personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries." Brazil contains about 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
Even if Amazon nations did seek help, amphibious planes widely used in Europe to dump water and retardants on wildfires don't have the range to cross the Atlantic Ocean, Col. Grégory Allione, head of France's national federation of firefighters, told The Associated Press.
Larger, land-based fire-fighting planes could only reach the Amazon from Europe via a circuitous route over Greenland, North and Central America, which "would take an eternity," he said.
Environmental campaigners said longer-term solutions were needed to preserve the Amazon. Some have accused Macron of hypocrisy, arguing that while he's adept at using Twitter to position himself as a champion for the planet, his domestic record on green issues is spotty at best. His first environment minister quit abruptly, frustrated by the slow progress fighting climate change under Macron's government.
William and Kate take budget flight after Harry and Meghan slammed over private jets
(CNN) -- Prince William, his wife Kate and their three children took a budget airline flight on Thursday -- just days after his brother Prince Harry and wife Meghan faced criticism for their use of private jets.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took their family on economy airline FlyBe for a flight from Norwich in eastern England to Aberdeen on Scotland's east coast. They were traveling to Queen Elizabeth's summer residence of Balmoral Castle, Reuters news agency reported.
"We were delighted to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their family on board one of our flights again, this time when they flew from Norwich to Aberdeen with our franchise partner, Eastern Airways," a FlyBe spokesman told CNN in a statement.
FlyBe declined to tell CNN how much the flight had cost. Prices for that route start at £73 ($89), with a fully flexible fare costing £249 ($303).
Earlier this week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex faced criticism after using private jets to fly to the south of France and Ibiza in two trips just days apart.
Environmental campaigners accused the pair of hypocrisy, saying that Harry and Meghan's actions contradict their public stance on climate change, given aviation is one of the world's major polluters and is responsible for more than 2% of global emissions.
The environmental footprint of a private jet is also much greater than that of a commercial plane.
Earlier in August, Harry said he plans to have two children "maximum," in order to protect the planet, during a conversation with activist Jane Goodall in an edition of British Vogue guest-edited by Meghan. He also spoke about the "terrifying" effects of climate change.
Singer Elton John defended the royal couple, however, and said media reports of their trips were "distorted and malicious." The star said he and his husband David Furnish had paid for the private jet to Nice for security reasons, and had made a donation to an environmental charity.
After a hectic year continuing their hard work and dedication to charity, David and I wanted the young family to have a private holiday inside the safety and tranquility of our home. To maintain a high level of much-needed protection, we provided them with a private jet flight.— Elton John (@eltonofficial) August 19, 2019
"After a hectic year continuing their hard work and dedication to charity, David and I wanted the young family to have a private holiday inside the safety and tranquility of our home. To maintain a high level of much-needed protection, we provided them with a private jet flight," he posted on Twitter.